I first tried being a vegetarian in high school on a whim; it seemed fun and I wanted to see if I could do it. Now, years later, it is a lifestyle that I don’t believe I will ever go back from again. I maintain a mix of a vegetarian and vegan diet; I enjoy dairy and eggs sometimes but not all the time. Keeping up a plant based diet is not easy, it takes a lot of planning and building up knowledge over time to maintain your health. Here are my top tips to maintain a plant based diet!
- Variety. When you plan out meals and snacks during the day try to make your main goal variety. Try to get a good assortment of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, beans, and dairy into your diet. Some days, especially if the day is rushed, it is hard to get all these food groups in. However, do your best not to skimp on one group so that you are getting all the different nutrients your body needs.
- Planning. I find planning essential to eating healthy meals. On busy weeks take the time to plan out a few big meals. Plan out enough time in your day to prepare the meal you want to make. Don’t let the idea of chopping vegetables or soaking beans deter you from eating healthy. If you make a time to get these things done cooking during your day/week will be much easier!
- Inspiration. Maintaining a plant based diet can be hard in a culture, like the United States, where meat and dairy are so heavily used. Find some cookbooks or blogs you enjoy and use them for inspiration! They will show you how to incorporate different foods into your meals and give you more variety in your meals. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of making the same dishes because you know they are healthy. Find sources that make you want to branch out!
- Read labels. For the longest time I didn’t read labels thoroughly. I figured if the food didn’t have actual meat in it it was vegetarian. I am quickly finding out, however, that that is far from the truth. Take the time in the store to really read the labels to make sure what you are getting is appropriate for your diet. This might mean more time and research than you used to put into your shopping, but it will be worth it!
- Relax. The hardest part for me when switching diets was relaxing. I felt like if I made a mistake and ate something with meat or an animal byproduct, I was failing. That’s not the case! It takes a lot of effort to stay completely plant based in our society. If you make a mistake, don’t worry! Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. View the mistake as a learning opportunity for the next time you are shopping for that ingredient or ordering from a restaurant!
What do you do to maintain a plant based diet?